Last Friday morning Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman completed his second round of chemotherapy. Friday afternoon he was back at the Kentucky football training center preparing for practice. For some, the duties of an SEC football coach might be too much to handle, but not Schlarman.
“It’s helped a lot. I’ve been able to maybe not sit around and worry all dag-gone day about things. I can just go to work and do what I would do on a normal, regular basis. It’s refreshing mentally.” Schlarman said in his first interview since Mark Stoops revealed the coach was diagnosed with cancer. “When you come in and you’re at work you’re just working, you’re not thinking about things.”
His offensive line isn’t thinking about it either. Schlarman has not changed at all since his diagnosis. Drake Jackson admitted that some of the linemen didn’t even know about it until they saw the news on social media.
“Schlarman’s personality is just so great. It freaks you out because you forget about it. You actually forget about it,” Jackson said. “He makes us go out here and play football. At home, you can think about it. Sure, it was hard the first two weeks, for me personally and some of the other guys, but you’re around him everyday. He hasn’t changed one bit. He just makes you forget those negative things are going on.”
The ailing offensive line coach could not ask for a better support system than what he has on the Kentucky football team, from his players, all the way up to the head coach.
“You couldn’t ask for a group of young men to handle a situation better than this group of offensive linemen. It just goes to show that we’re recruiting the right type of guys here,” Schlarman said.
“The support’s been amazing. Coach Stoops, I couldn’t work for a better head coach in America because he’s put family first all the time. That’s easy to say in the recruiting process, it’s easy to say on daily side talk, but when it comes into play he’s done that. He’s been an unbelievable boss and allowed our family to deal with this in the way we need to, but also allow me to continue to work, which is important to me. It’s really important to me to do the job that I’m here to do. That’s something that really motivates me every day. I want to keep on doing that for as long as I can do that, and hopefully that’s a long, long time.”
Schlarman’s future is uncertain. All he can tell you is that he feels much better and he plans on coaching at the University of Kentucky for as long as he can.
“I don’t know the future, I don’t know what it has to bring. I don’t know what’s in front of me with this stuff, but nobody with cancer probably does. But the reality of the situation is you take it day by day. That’s what I’m doing, taking it day by day. I feel great right now, so that’s all I can go by. I don’t know what next week, next month, next year is going to bring, but I’m going to take it day by day and just keep on grinding.”
As he continues his fight against cancer, John Schlarman is not just teaching his players how to play the game of football. He’s teaching them a life lesson they will not soon forget.
“He just doesn’t make a big deal out of it,” Jackson said. “Obviously it’s unfortunate, but he’s taken up a heck of a role: showing us how to be a grown man.”